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Starting Harper at 17

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10 May 2019

My Extended Foundation Degree Programme (EFDP) year, (or as I call it my Baby Boughey year, as this is what us under 18's are referred to), was probably one of my best years at Harper. Yes I had restrictions, no-consumption of alcohol, a sign in sheet for after 11pm and a massive, red UNDER 18 stamped across my student ID card, but it also opened up so many options for me.

Before I found out about this course I was thinking of dropping out of A-levels and going to work at an eventing yard (still a dream but no longer my only one!), my grades had slipped, things weren't hanky-dory at home and I had no clear idea of what I even wanted to do once at University!

I remember the day my sister found out about the EFDP course and how it accepted people who were 17 and suddenly I had options. I COULD attend university (one of my favourites as well!), I COULD have a shot at learning what I was interested in. This was 4 days before the end of clearing, so I had to act fast. I rang up to speak to the head of EFDP (for me this was Moira Harris), mostly to enquire about if they even had any spaces, and luckily for me there was 1 space left on the course. I know I probably should have put more thought into it but if I had waited until next year I wouldn't have had the amazing experiences that I have.

From then on, everything was a mad rush, from my informal 'interview', being verbally accepted, setting up a UCAS account, officially applying and then trying to sort student finance! It wasn't until later, after all of this mad rush that I even stopped to think about it. I was moving away from home to a UNIVERSITY of all places at 17 and I had decided all of that in the course of 4 days. I was sad to be leaving, I thought I'd have another year with my friends, my horse, my dog, my family but university is only temporary and I still saw them all regularly. It made coming home that much nicer!

The build up to moving in was nerve wracking. I went on a open day (I had never even looked round Harper and had only ever seen my sisters halls!!), found out that I was in Boughey Halls, found my house mates online and set up a group chat! There were 10 other 'babies' joining the same year I was and we were all in the same halls which was reassuring. I think I loved it from the day we moved in, everyone was so friendly, I loved the girls on my floor (2 were over 18, and the other 2 were under 18 like me!) and the university still tried to include us in all the regular freshers events - just without the drinking, which I think makes us some of the hardest freshers there!

To this day I still count a lot of the people who I not only lived with in this year, but met because of it, some of my closest friends (even if I did 'redo' freshers the next year!). The best part? On our 18th birthday we got a free drink from the bar! Once we turned 18, all our 'under 18' restrictions were lifted.

The course itself was great as well, there was such a diverse range of people on the course, more so than any others as it was an access course for multiple different BSc and FdSc courses at Harper. I think the age gap between us 17 year olds and the oldest student was around 30 years! We were offered so much help in this year, from learning how to write assignments to university standard, to referencing the Harper way and even learning the basics of our chosen course areas. It was hands-down, the best decision I made, and I'm so glad I did.

As I'm sure most of you are aware, there are multiple ways to be accepted into HAU, from BTEC, to A-levels and everything in between. But one way that isn't widely publicised - I at least had never heard about it until those 4 days before clearing - is through the Extended Foundation Degree Programme. This course is open to anyone from the age of 17 (and a half!), with a minimum of 6 GCSE passes at grade C or above!

(Pictured is nearly all of my house mates from my EFDP year, most being under 18 when we started!)

To find out more about the Extdended Foundation Degree Programme click here.

By Jess Millbank

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